COLUMBUS — Ohio State did enough in its first four games to warrant a coveted top-four spot in the first College Football Playoff rankings release on Tuesday.
But barely. The Buckeyes were No. 4 in the initial reveal, behind 1 Alabama, 2 Notre Dame and 3 Clemson. Those first two teams are undefeated, while Clemson’s only loss came in double-overtime at the Fighting Irish without Trevor Lawrence and three defensive starters.
If Ohio State’s small resume underwhelmed the selection committee, strength of schedule and eye test may both have been factors. Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers are a combined 2-12. The Buckeyes gave up 491 passing yards in Saturday’s 42-35 over Indiana, the No. 12 team in the rankings.
“It comes with with the territory here,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said earlier Tuesday about the expectation of annually making the playoff. “That doesn’t make it easy, knowing what you’re getting into here. The standard is high, and we have to live up to that standard.”
Alabama, by virtue of victories over highly ranked Georgia and Texas A&M, is No. 1. The Crimson Tide missed the playoff last season after appearing in the first five installments.
No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 6 Florida were next in the rankings. No. 7 Cincinnati is trying to become the first Group of Five team to make the playoff.
Northwestern came in at No. 8 thanks to its 5-0 start. The Wildcats have wins over No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 24 Iowa.
The CFP selection committee will release rankings on each of the next three Tuesdays. The final rankings are released on Dec. 20, the day following the Big Ten championship game.
The Buckeyes were No. 1 in the first 2019 rankings. LSU took that spot a week later after beating Alabama, and the Tigers and OSU battled for the No. 1 seed through selection Sunday. LSU ended up being the top seed en route to an undefeated national championship, while OSU lost to Clemson in the semifinals.
Ohio State seeks its fourth appearance in the seven seasons of the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes won the inaugural championship in 2014 and lost in the 2016 semifinals.